Good morning! We have reached the end of the sermon on the mount. We’ve worked our way through Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 5, 6 and 7. I was just thinking, can you imagine sitting and listening to Jesus teach this whole thing? We’ve gone through this series all summer long! So really, however long I may take today is nothing in comparison to how long the original sermon was, so don’t keep checking the time. I promise not to take as long as it originally was.
Before we get into Jesus’ last point and parable in this sermon, I want to recap what Ken talked about last week, because Jesus’ last point is based off of it.
Here’s what Jesus said:
“Heaven can be entered only through the narrow gate! The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide enough for all the multitudes who choose its easy way. But the Gateway to Life is small, and the road is narrow, and only a few ever find it. TLB Matthew 7:13-14
What is Jesus saying? There is only one way to God, only one way to heaven, and it’s through Jesus. Another way to put it; Giving our lives to Christ and following Him is the narrow gate. Everything Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount is the narrow gate. But it goes so against culture. In fact, everything that Jesus talked about not only is different from our culture, it’s the opposite. Taking the narrow road and putting Jesus’ teaching into action makes us look WEIRD to other people, and quite honestly, a lot of it is kinda offensive, especially these days.
For instance, Jesus told us that we are all guilty of murder because of our anger and adulterers because of our lust. That’s weird AND offensive. He told us to love our enemies, and if they slap us, to give them our other cheek. If this actually happened to us, we’d get angry and become a murderer by His standards. He told us not to worry, and not be anxious. Well, the all knowing God doesn’t seem to know just how hard that can be.
This is challenging stuff! It’s weird compared to others around us. But that’s the road that leads to God, through Jesus. It’s only by Jesus’ sacrifice that we are forgiven for all that we’ve done. It’s only by trusting and giving our lives to Christ that we can be saved. Salvation doesn’t come from anything we’ve done, but only comes through Christ alone.
Jesus cautioned us to be on guard, though, because there are so many distractions! It’s easy enough to get swept up in culture, to live like everyone else, to go with the flow and go through the motions. He warned us to watch for false prophets, meaning anyone who teaches anything contrary to Jesus’ teaching. We have to be aware of leaders who look and sound really good. Be aware if they give you a comforting message that gives you an easy way of life that involves no sacrifice, no self-examination, no awareness of sin and confession and healing.
We also have to be on guard against religion as well, meaning we have to avoid doing the right things for the wrong reasons. We can easily get sucked into the idea that doing good things, like going to church, volunteering, giving a little bit and so on equals a relationship with God. But you know as well as I do that we can easily feel better about ourselves after going to church, yet we pick and choose what teachings we want to apply to our lives.
The bottom line is there are no shortcuts to God. God values RELATIONSHIP over RELIGION.
That being said, what we DO is still important.
Now hold up, didn’t I JUST say that we don’t have to do anything for salvation? Yes. Didn’t I JUST say that Jesus taught against religion? Yes. But you see, there’s a difference between doing things because you have to and doing things because you WANT to. You would agree with that right?
For instance, a constant battle in my house between Kim and I is over the toilet seat. While this is a strange thing to bring up on a Sunday morning, you other men understand this battle. I get in trouble all the time for leaving the seat up, because Kim says she’ll fall in. I don’t believe it, but I always forget. Kim would say I don’t forget, I just don’t care. Well, that may be partly true. I may blame my memory, but honestly, it’s just not very high on my priority list, so I willfully forget.
Before I get myself into more trouble, the point I’m trying to make is that when I do remember to put it down, I’m not doing it because I think that’s the way to earn her love. She loves me for me, for some reason! So I do it because she has asked me to, I love her, and WANT to. Not to EARN, but to show LOVE back.
Jesus gave us this sermon on the mount to listen to AND follow. In John 14:15, Jesus says, “If you love me, keep my commands.” We don’t keep his commands to twist his arm into getting what we want, or to earn his love, or to check off the religious duties, but to please him, to show him love! God doesn’t command us to obey because He’s on a power trip, but because He knows and wants what’s BEST for us. While they may look weird, and even fun-killing, to the rest of the world, his teachings are to give us freedom and increase our enjoyment. They protect us, they guide us, and they lead us back to God.
The more we understand, appreciate, and meditate on the love, grace, power, and mercy of God, along with all His other attributes, the more we want to give glory BACK to God, the more we want to love him, following him and his commandments. I’ve said it before and I’ll always let you know, if you really struggle to love others, and to forgive others, and to live out his teachings like those in the sermon on the mount, you still aren’t grasping how great God’s love and Jesus’ sacrifice for you is! You still don’t believe that God has your best interest at heart! When we fully embrace His love, it results in a changed heart. What we do then, is evidence of this change!
I feel like so many people think that you have to follow His strict commands, and then when you’re doing well, you might have a relationship with God. I think that’s why so many people don’t understand the connection between the two! Your relationship with God and following His teaching grow TOGETHER. This grows, and so does this. Don’t be misled by that! Jesus isn’t saying you MUST follow it all IN ORDER to know me, He’s saying following these is how I KNOW you know and love me!
Think about yourself for a moment. If you’re here today struggling to believe in God, what’s stopping you? If it’s the rules and the hypocrisy of the church, you’re looking at the wrong thing. Yes, as Christians we are to be following Christ’s example the best we can, but we’re imperfect. You don’t have to change before you explore knowing God. You can first just try Him out. The change will come.
If you do call yourself a Christian: How much of Jesus’ teaching do you put into practice? Do you pick and choose? Do you believe and follow only portions of Scripture?
The commands that you do follow, why do you follow them? Is it out of obligation, to try and earn your way into heaven? Or do you follow out of love for Christ?
The answer to these questions really determine the condition of your heart.
That was a very long introduction for Jesus’ final parable, but I want you to keep all this in mind as we read Matthew 7:
Therefore – Jesus is wrapping up, therefore meaning, I’ve just talked about taking the narrow road, listening and acting on my words, watching for false prophets in religion. With all that in mind…
“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” Matthew 7:24-27 NIV
What an awesome way to conclude everything that he’s talked about. Jesus is looking at everyone before him, who have been listening intently to all his wisdom, and addresses them all. And likewise, he’s addressing all of us, all of us who have heard his words.
So Jesus compares 2 people: A wise man who puts Jesus’ words into practice, and a foolish man who does not. A few comparisons for us to consider this morning:
- The houses appear to similar in structure.
Nothing in this context would suggest that they look any different. Why is that important? You know as well as I do, us Christians, we’ve learned to hide. Adam and Eve played the first game of hide and seek with God, trying to hide their sin and shame. We still do that today! We try and hide what we struggle with. We come to church, pretending like our life is going so well. You ask, how are ya? We all answer, busy, but good! On the outside these house both look like they’ve got it all together. Both people have good jobs. A beautiful family. A bright future ahead of them. They’re in great shape. In fact, the house built on the sand may even look nicer, and more appealing! Nothing suggests that there is anything wrong with either.
- Storms showed what was truly underneath.
When the sun is shining, everything is going well, the two look the same. But it’s no secret, storms are a real thing. It’s a huge misbelief that becoming a Christian takes away pain and hardship. We all face it. Jesus doesn’t say IF the storms come, he said WHEN they came. It’s during those times that we are tested, and what’s tested is what is hidden from view. It’s how we react. What we have to rely on. That’s where the difference was.
- The difference between the wise and the foolish was their foundation.
When storms have come in your life, how have you responded? That’s your indicator of your foundation. Life is full of hardship, pain, and even devastation at times.
Let’s get more practical. What’s really the difference between the two?
Remember Jesus is wrapping up his sermon. So everyone sitting there, and all of us, have choices to make. Do we listen? Has our heart been transformed?
Do we follow Jesus’ teaching because we truly believe he knows what’s best, and because we understand how much he’s done for us?
Or do we say ‘thanks Jesus, I’ll take it from here.’ Do you instead try to build your own life? You may come to church, or serve, but you aren’t doing it out of love for God.
How you respond to Christ’s teaching determines the structure, the foundation, of your house! And your response to hardships in life will clearly show how close your relationship to him is.
The builders of these houses both heard Jesus’ teaching. They may even both say they’re a Christian. But while one believed the promises of God, and rested in His truth and love, and put Jesus’ teachings to action, the other said, I like this one, and this one, not that one, this one, not that one. People who build on the sand do hear the Gospel, but they continue to try and save themselves. They do things on their terms. If somebody slaps them, they’ll slap back. They’ll give when they have surplus. They won’t speak up about their faith out of fear. They come to church simply because they feel like it’s a good thing. But they love the part about heaven, and about love and grace. To sand builders, Scripture is open to interpretation! A highlighter is an instrument of the devil when it comes to our Bible pages.
But remember, sand builders look good, and even feel good! They still have a beautiful house! But the problem is that storms are coming, and if you don’t have a firm foundation, it doesn’t matter how great the house has looked. Sand builders, though they may never say it, put their confidence in themselves.
Rock builders on the other hand understand and truly believe that Jesus alone is enough. They trust God has their best interest at heart. They are spending time with Him, day after day, praying, reading the Bible, worshipping, living out their faith. Because they trust God at His Word, they hear it or read it and they put it into practice. Yeah, they still live differently than the rest of the world. Yeah, there will definitely be things that they struggle with. It may take awhile to learn how to love his enemies. It’s not natural to feel blessed at the end of your rope. But they put their hope, trust, and confidence not in themselves, but in God.
And finally, it’s not a one time build. It’s not like a… I asked Jesus into my heart today… now I have this big house on solid rock, I don’t have to worry anymore. No, Jesus is talking about building your entire LIFE on the rock. You’re always making renovations and improvements.
But storms are coming. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you believe, life has hardship, and pain, and trials that we have to go through. Your foundation must be there before the storms hit! There’s probably nothing that tears us away from a relationship with God more than hardships in our life, because in those times, we can wonder where God is, why is He allowing this to happen, what good come from this?
And this is why Jesus ended his sermon this way, because there is a difference in the response to the rock builder and the sand builder.
JESUS GIVES US HOPE.
In John 16:33, Jesus gave us true hope when it comes to hardships in our life. This is a verse to remember. He said:
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” NIV
What are some storms that we go through? How do the sand builder and the rock builder respond?
Financial. Finances are tight at home. You’re let go of your job, without reason. Your car just dies without warning, and now you’re in need of a new one. Your credit score is beat down because of your past and you struggle to raise it. God blesses you with a child, but you’re worried about making ends meet. Healthcare is so expensive, so you have to decide how important each doctor’s visit is. Men, we are to provide for our family, but in our prideful minds we can feel like we have to be able to COMPLETELY provide.
How does a sand builder respond? They work, and work, and work. Making money is always priority, even over relationships, their family, and their own health. They are anxious until payday. They are envious of people who seem to have it all. They put it on themselves to work themselves into the ground for hopes of a better future.
A rock builder responds differently. They go to Jesus’ sermon on the mount, chapter 6 and read:
“So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.” Matthew 6:31-33 NLT
They have hope, because they trust God will give everything they need. It doesn’t make the times any less hard, but it does bring peace. They do all they can do, but trust God with the rest.
Health. You get hurt and can’t work for weeks. Your health is declining as you get older. You are diagnosed with a life threatening disease. A loved one passes away unexpectedly. You continue to feel the effects of an accident from years ago.
The pain becomes unbearable for a sand builder. The physical pain and end up leading to anger and depression. They get mad at their pain; mad at their bodies, mad at others, and mad at God. There doesn’t seem to be a way to handle it all so depression begins to take over. Eventually, all hope is taken away from them, because there is no escape.
But the rock builder has hope. How?
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.” 2 Cor. 1:2-5 NIV
They know that everything has a purpose. It doesn’t take away the pain, but it gives the pain a purpose.
And yet, if God never heals them, there is still hope.
Revelation 21:4 gives us hope of heaven:
“He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” NLT
Our pain now cannot compare to heaven, so we can have HOPE.
And finally, death. I want to fill you in, it’s inevitable for all of us. There’s no getting out of it. We may try to live like it’ll never happen to us, but there is a day. And while we always hope to have a long life, we truly never know when our last breath will be.
Sand builders, that scares you. You don’t want to think about it, plan for it, or think about what happens after that. Because then everything we’ve worked for goes away. This life we’ve built is gone. So sand builders continue to live life as though that day won’t come for them, and they’ll avoid talking or thinking about it.
But rock builders, there’s tremendous hope, and it’s the story of salvation:
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16 NIV
“Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.” John 5:24 NIV
“Then, when our dying bodies have been transformed into bodies that will never die, this Scripture will be fulfilled:
“Death is swallowed up in victory.
O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”
For sin is the sting that results in death, and the law gives sin its power. But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Cor. 15:54-57 NLT
Because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, we are forgiven of sins, we can have a real, authentic relationship with God, and we have eternal life. All our hope is in Jesus! Not only are rock builders not afraid of death, we look FORWARD to what’s to come! Our biggest fear is now our biggest triumph!
Look, storms are coming. You don’t have to be a Christian to know that. But when they come, how will you respond? What will be your foundation? Are you a rock builder, or a sand builder?
If you’re a sand builder, all that you have will fall. Nothing in our own strength and doing will save you ultimately from death. But there is hope, and His Name is Jesus. No matter what comes your way, you can know that He is there with you, every step of the way. His promises are true. His Word is our guide. How could we build on anything else?
As I was really meditating on Jesus’ words, I felt a greater question. Like, what if everything was taken from me? What if my entire house, my entire life, crashed to the ground?
If you were left with nothing but Jesus, would that be enough? If everything got taken from you but your foundation, would it be Jesus?
Has anyone ever heard of Horatio G. Spafford?
“Horatio G. Spafford was a successful lawyer and businessman in Chicago with a lovely family — a wife, Anna, and five children. However, they were not strangers to tears and tragedy. Their young son died with pneumonia in 1871, and in that same year, much of their business was lost in the great Chicago fire. His entire life savings, gone. Yet, God in His mercy and kindness allowed the business to flourish once more.
Spafford decided it was time for a family vacation, so on Nov. 21, 1873, the French ocean liner, Ville du Havre was crossing the Atlantic from the U.S. to Europe with 313 passengers on board. Among the passengers were Mrs. Spafford and their four daughters. Although Mr. Spafford had planned to go with his family, he found it necessary to stay in Chicago to help solve an unexpected business problem. He told his wife he would join her and their children in Europe a few days later. His plan was to take another ship.
About four days into the crossing of the Atlantic, the Ville du Harve collided with a powerful, iron-hulled Scottish ship, the Loch Earn. Suddenly, all of those on board were in grave danger. Anna hurriedly brought her four children to the deck. She knelt there with Annie, Margaret Lee, Bessie and Tanetta and prayed that God would spare them if that could be His will, or to make them willing to endure whatever awaited them. Within approximately 12 minutes, the Ville du Harve slipped beneath the dark waters of the Atlantic, carrying with it 226 of the passengers including the four Spafford children.
A sailor, rowing a small boat over the spot where the ship went down, spotted a woman floating on a piece of the wreckage. It was Anna, still alive. He pulled her into the boat and they were picked up by another large vessel which, nine days later, landed them in Cardiff, Wales. From there she wired her husband a message which began, “Saved alone, what shall I do?”
Another of the ship’s survivors, Pastor Weiss, later recalled Anna saying, “God gave me four daughters. Now they have been taken from me. Someday I will understand why.”
Mr. Spafford booked passage on the next available ship and left to join his grieving wife. With the ship about four days out, the captain called Spafford to his cabin and told him they were over the place where his children went down.
Floating above the spot where he tragically lost his 4 daughters, Spafford penned the famous hymn, ‘It Is Well With My Soul.’”
When peace like a river attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll,
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.
My sin—oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!—
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!
And Lord, haste the day when the faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.
It is well with my soul,
It is well, it is well with my soul.
What is your foundation? Is it Jesus? Do you live by His Word? Storms will come, and they’ll test what’s hidden underneath. It’s only in Jesus that we can have hope, despite anything that comes our way. If you have never put your hope in Jesus, I pray that you would. If you would say, you know what, I’m only half in this. I don’t really follow Scripture, I’m not giving time to building my relationship with Christ, I pray that you’d start. Don’t willfully forget all that we’ve talked about this summer in Jesus’ sermon on the mount, but act on it! Try it out! There’s no harm in trying, right? Make the decision to build upon the rock.
** Spafford story is cited from http://www.staugustine.com/living/religion/2014-10-16/story-behind-song-it-well-my-soul**